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billing for drifting snow

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by indianaplowboy, Feb 26, 2002.

  1. indianaplowboy

    indianaplowboy Junior Member
    Messages: 13

    NE IN under a winter storm warning until this evening, that's joke. Think maybe it should have been "Winter storm watch for the squirrels" considering it hasn't really affected the human population. We had 4 1/2" snowfall but it melted on the gravel, pavement and asphalt faster than a popsicle at a 4th of July parade. So back to my question, let's say the wind does actually pick up enough for what's on the ground to drift into the lots to plow but only covers the front half of the lot, how would you bill for this? Thanks for your help.
  2. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    I guess it would be determined by the wording of your contract. If you have a clause for partial plowing or if any plowing is to be considered a full plow.

    You have still had to take your time to appear and service which still puts wear and tear on your equipment. If you have provisions for a partial plowing then it sounds like you would charge for half a full plowing.

    Just my $.02

  3. nsmilligan

    nsmilligan PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 704

    About 50% of my contracts are seasonal, and of course they would be done just like every snow event. The per push customers depending on how much drifting, I usually charge 1/2 price with a note on the invoice. Most appreciate the service and the break (everybody loves a bargin). If I get called by the customer especially if it's the one that whines because there's not enough snow to plow, it usually full price, there's no partial clause in my contracts.

  4. indianaplowboy

    indianaplowboy Junior Member
    Messages: 13

    thanks for your help

    Thanks you guys. We talked it over and since we do not have a partial amount in the contract (we'll re-think that issue before next yrs. contract go out). Since your posts, we decided if the amount to be plowed was 50%of the area or less we will charge 1/2 of the normal bililng but if the area is more than 50% we will charge the normal full amount. Most are reasonable customers and this should be o.k. We're really grateful there are the experienced out there willing to help out us newbies.
  5. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    I'll pretty much echo what the others said about charging for less than a full plow. We bill for a "partial plow", and charge half of the full plow. Something else we do, and it would seem particularly applicable to drifts just in the corners, or maybe a spot where someone had been parked when we plowed the first time, is to put on the invoice "touch up plow", with the date listed, and note that there was "no charge" for that. That way the customers know we were there doing our job, but can feel like they're getting something for nothing too....
  6. greenquestlawn

    greenquestlawn Senior Member
    Messages: 157

    I will charge a partial plow also if it takes less time.
  7. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    The way my contracts are structured and intended is that a snow event is a snow event. I'll show up and provide access, regardless if the lot is 2/3 windswept or under 18" of snow. Same seasonal price. I know other markets are different, but this rate cutting is just another reason to mature (nurture?) your customers into seasonal contracts. It saves alot of calculating. Besides, it still takes the same amount of travel expense and overhead expense to service the account, so a 50% discount is being fiscally unfair to yourself.
  8. nsmilligan

    nsmilligan PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 704

    I disagree John. I think the ideal situation for a small to med contractor is about a 50/50 mix of seasonal and per push customers. So in a terrible snow season like in New England this year the cash flow is still there to pay the bills, and if it's a BIG snow season like last year and so far this year here, the extra cash from the per push customers adds to the profit margin, after all everytime you plow a seasonal account the amount per push you are paid for doing the lot goes down. And first of all we are a service industry and service sells your business, and I like digger's idea of noting a touch up call, your costs are small, but it goes a long way towards cementing a good relationship with your customers. I do this too, you know the contract you plowed early and your're driving by and the Gov plow has just filled in the mouth of his lot, I don't charge for a couple of pushes to open it up.

  9. lawnkid

    lawnkid Senior Member
    Messages: 234

    If you're in need of money i would watch the news and see which way the wind is blowing and make sure that i would pile my snow that it would drift enormously sand you would have to keep coming back. Sometimes people catch on. I would just plow and charge a fair price for it because you're already cheating them.
  10. indianaplowboy

    indianaplowboy Junior Member
    Messages: 13


    IMO I do not think this work ethic will pay off in the long run, bad karma. This may be our first season and yes with the season we have had thus far has not been quite as profitable as anticipated. There is alot of competition out there and I feel personal relationships including gaining your customer's trust in a service related industry is as equally important as the quality of work you perform. This may work for you but I think I'll pass on the advice. I also understand the philosophy of "give them an inch and they'll take a mile". So you also have to be careful with what you are willing to "throw in" to your customers as courtesies so that they do not become expected everytime you perform your service. Besides I don't think I would appreciate it if a contractor pulled this on a lot I owned. Thanks for your input, be careful and have a safe season.
  11. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    We'll also bill for "partial salt", generally 1/2 of the price for a full salting job. Some of our accounts have several different lots, which can really surprise you as to how much snow you can have from one side of the street to the other, or one side of the building to the other. This winter's just been so borderline for almost *every* event. I've been continually second guessing myself as to whether to salt or not. I finally figured out that if someone complains about being billed for a partial salt job, that I'll explain that it does take the same amount of time and effort as a full salting. The only difference to us is the cost of the material, therefore, we're pretty much at the break even point. It's just a question of do you want good service, or not?

    As far as fiscal fairness, maybe I'm too much of an optimist, but I'd like to think the customers will realize not just that they've been treated well, but just *how well* they've been treated.

    (And now, to offer anecdotal evidence to contradict myself...)

    I (fortunately) didn't have to handle the call, but a couple of Saturdays ago a customer called, absolutely irate. He'd been billed for a partial salt. Said he'd been at the property at 9 a.m. and there was no snow there. He was told with 100% certainty that his lot had been salted at 8:08 a.m. (Log the times you're at each location--I learned that back in November here at Plowsite--it might have been on my first ever visit--thank you very much. :D ) I realized as we sat in the office and discussed the matter that since the last time the guy had been billed, I'd been there and checked the lot on *four* other dates, and it hadn't needed any service. The amount of the disputed billing--Seventeen dollars and Fifty frickin cents....

    (He's been added to the "raise the price next season and hope he finds somebody else" list. Any of you guys want his number?)
  12. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    I hope that the idea of piling the snow so it would drift back in and require repeat visit after repeat visit was posted as a joke, for one thing I agree with indianaplowboy that it doesn't sound too ethical and also, in any of the lots that I plow I don't have the option of piling the snow where it suits me, it has to be piled in specific places due to building/lot layout and access requirements.
  13. CCLC

    CCLC Member
    Messages: 91

    Partial billing is a great thing in my opinion. It shows your customer that you will be there to service their property no matter how great or small the job needed is. It also shows that if you a billing partials that you are trying to be an honest and fair business person.

    As far as our "pile it so it'll drift back" reply person... I hope your customers "catch on"
  14. Ohiosnow

    Ohiosnow Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 415


    I agree 110% with your post. :) That's how you keep repeat business year after year.
  15. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    Naw, I still don't agree with partial billing. That's not to say we do not do touchups (some accounts have that feature specifically mentioned) because we do. And I do the very odd no-charge slush cleanup or some other gimmee while passing to keep good customers content. That's good business.

    But my thinking is that if they hire me, they more than anything expect me to show up consistently (not to mention perform). For that, they expect it to cost so much. If the event just drifts over 1/3 of the area, chances are that I have to cover 3/4 of it by the time I chase every flake to its pile. Conversely, if it were to snow 14", I still show up, plow the whole thing and charge the same amount. No additional charges such as per-inch billing. For me, that makes sense - simple and cost effective- it is based on averages. This is in my market, and I know other markets function differently.

    Bill - I agree with you that a mix of seasonals and BTT (by-the-time) are important - we have both in about a 60 seasonal, 40 btt split on revenue. (We are at 24 plows this year, so the BTT's are important to keep in the mix). My point was that I don't discount anyone for light or drifted snow, and contracts are the way that I am pushing my better BTT customers.
  16. Lawn Lad

    Lawn Lad Senior Member
    Messages: 407

    We service each of our accounts the same, may they be seasonal or per push. The only thing that changes frequency or tendency to plow is the trigger depth. Trace vs 1" vs 2".

    Our contracts read that any time we drop the blade it's a full push. However, for the per push contracts, we will prorate our charge if the time on site is minimal. And there are times we'll give 'em that loss leader - no charge touch up plow for good customer relations. The key is letting them know that you were there and they didn't pay for it.

    The reason for not stating in our contract 1/2 rate plows is that a night time clean up is different than a day time slush plow or clean up plow where maybe only the ailes and a few corners or spots are getting pushed. So we pro rate according to the time we spend on site - and what seems reasonable if anything at all. Traffic in the lot obviously dictates how much time it takes to complete the job, or even how thorough you can be - practically speaking.

    We take enough per push contracts to cover our variable expenses plus make a decent profit each time we go out. This is about 30% of our capacity or availability, the other 70% we'll shoot to take on seasonal contracts. This way we're covered either way. If it snows, we never touch the seasonal money (except for the fixed expenses which occur in either case) and we make money each time we go out. If it never snows, we never incur the variable expenses and therefore only lost out on some of the profit opportunity that the per push would have brought. I can live with snow or no snow... but certainly prefer when it snows.
  17. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    We are at...uh...gimme a minute to count....uh...yep. We are at one. (Well, maybe 1 1/4 if you count the one where we had to plow about half the customers, partially.)

    Anybody want a sales job selling seasonal contracts here next September? Work for a straight comission?
  18. carlriv2

    carlriv2 Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 126

    Just a note in reguard to diggers post. I charge for partial plowings and sandings at my discression, but if I check a lot for sanding or plowing (drifts)and it does not need to be done I will certainly enter on the invoice "Checked, Not sanded N/C". I can not charge if I did not perform the service but my customers will surely know that I was there checking to insure the property was in decent condition.
    Any time I stop in at a property to check on anything it is noted on the invoice (ecept a scheduled meeting). I figure if I spent the time and cant charge the customer will know that they received some kind of service.
  19. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    I've considered something like that, but there's something else to think about.

    After this year's (only) plowable event two customers (previously "plow only, no salt, accounts") requested that after plowing they receive salt "at the driver's discretion". My personal view on the "driver's discretion" question is that if it's left up to me, they're gonna get salt. Why? Because if sombody slips and falls after *I* decided no salt was needed then *I've* effectivly assumed the whole responsibility for the slippery condition.

    In the same vein, if I admit by noting "Checked, Not sanded N/C", that I rendered a judgement as to the condition of the premisis, but didn't do anything to change that condition then, once again, I've effectively assumed responsibility. The point at which I stop getting paid is about the same point where I'm no longer happy assuming responsibility.
  20. carlriv2

    carlriv2 Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 126

    Yes I agree I do like to get paid. But I am talking more of the times when I drive from site to site sanding and one that is north facing gets a full service, east or west may get most done and one that is a full south exposure that is not only not icy but dry(I have to drive by on my rounds) It will be noted that I am on top of things. At the end of the season I look at my total billings and I certainly get paid for everything I do in the winter.

    My judgement IS what these properties rely on. Though I do not want to take the liability without question If I took the time to notice that it was not slippery at 6:40 AM the property owner will know that, and if the situation of slip and fall arises not only do I have these records the property owner does also.

    Maybe it is naive of me to think but if my jugment says I do not need to sand then if the time comes for me to go to court and I say "Yes I was there, and there was by no means an icy condition" and have records to back me up, hopefully I will have
    some credibility(hopefully)

    I also believe that when during a season I reduce the rate 3 or 4 times and I have a N/C 1 or 2 times but in 12 years I have only been questioned on my billing ONCE (by one customer who I dropped the following season, because he was only going to pay for sanding once per storm) I must be doing something right.